Martin O’Malley's Democratic Debate Performance Was Awfully Sad


Martin O’Malley had some painful moments Saturday night during the third Democratic presidential debate -- painful and a little awkward.

The former governor of Maryland intended to come off as forceful, trying to insert himself into exchanges and talking over the moderators. Instead, according to Twitter at least, he came off as annoying.

O'Malley's frequent attempts to insert himself into the debate aren't shocking: he's only supported by 5 percent of Democratic-leaning voters, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, and, during the last debate, O'Malley had spoken less than any other candidate onstage.

Here are some of his saddest moments from Saturday night:

O’Malley Debates -- With The Moderators

Bloomberg via Getty Images

One of O’Malley’s least charming moments came during an argument with the ABC moderators. O’Malley, who was clearly trying to get as much time as possible, talked over host Martha Raddatz as she tried to move on from the gun debate.

“I think we're going to go on,” Raddatz said, as O’Malley tried to inject his thoughts into the conversation.

“Excuse me, no,” O’Malley said.

David Muir broke in to remind O’Malley that there were rules to the debate, and that they would call on him shortly. But O’Malley wasn’t having it. His will won when he just kept talking over Muir.

Even though O’Malley was trying to show how commanding he can be, it was a moment that probably won’t make any pro-O’Malley -- pro-’Malley? -- campaign ads.

O’Malley Bashes Bickering During A Moment Of Peace

After Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared a moment of conciliation -- with Sanders apologizing for his campaign after a data breach allowed at least one staffer to look at Clinton campaign voter data -- O’Malley came in with a clearly canned speech that attacked his two opponents for arguing, even though what they were doing was closer to agreeing.

“We're listening to the bickering back and forth,” O’Malley said. “Maybe that is normal politics in Washington, but that is not the politics of higher purpose that people expect from our party.”

O’Malley then said the candidates needed to address security and economic issues. “And if people want a more high-minded politics and want to move our country forward, go on to and help my campaign move our country forward,” he said.

O’Malley Makes Sure We All Know What He Would Do To Find Terrorists

President Barack Obama recently announced that the shooting in San Bernardino, California, earlier this month was indeed an act of terrorism. Clinton was then asked what she would do to find potential terrorists who aren’t on federal and local law enforcement’s radar.

O’Malley then interjected himself into the conversation and led with an explanation that, quite frankly, didn’t make much sense.

“I am the very first post-9/11 mayor and the very first post-9/11 governor,” he said. “I understand, from the ground up, that when attacks like San Bernardino happen, when attacks like the attacks of 9/11 happen, that when people call 911, the first people to show up are the local first responders.”

O’Malley continued on to emphasize improvements in intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing.

O’Malley Manages To Get Sanders And Clinton To Unite Against Him -- On Gun Control

If O’Malley accomplished one thing during the debate, it was unifying Clinton and Sanders -- against him. He was trying to claim the mantle of gun-controller-in-chief, slamming both of their gun safety records.

O’Malley has tried it before with Sanders on this issue -- and he reiterated prior arguments on Saturday night.

“Sen. Sanders voted against the Brady Bill,” O’Malley noted, referencing 1993 legislation that made federal background checks and a five-day waiting period mandatory for gun purchasers. “Sen. Sanders voted to give immunity to gun dealers. And Sen. Sanders voted against even research dollars to look into this public health issue.”

OK -- not original, but not bad. HuffPost rates that statement true.

But then O’Malley bit off a little more than he could chew.

“ISIL training videos are telling lone wolves that the easiest way to buy a combat assault weapon in America is at a gun show and it’s because of the flip-flopping, political approach of Washington that both of my two colleagues on this stage have represented there for the last 40 years,” O’Malley said.

That elicited immediate objections from both Sanders and Clinton.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s calm down a little bit, Martin,” Sanders said.

“Let’s tell the truth, Martin,” Clinton added.

“I am telling the truth,” O’Malley insisted.

“Let’s start by maybe having some rules here,” Sanders shot back.

Sanders retook the floor, emphasizing a familiar theme in his discussion of gun policy: that he is uniquely qualified to build a consensus on gun control, given his political base in Vermont, where there are lax gun laws.

Then, kumbaya ensued, only Martin O’Malley was not invited. Clinton made a rare acknowledgment that Sanders had become more supportive of gun control, while admonishing him to back efforts to end the default-to-sale background check loophole and repeal civil legal liability for gun makers, wholesalers and retailers.

“I am glad to see that Sen. Sanders has really moved on this issue in the face of the facts about what we’re confronting in this country,” she said. “I would hope that he has said in the past two debates that he wants to take on this immunity issue ... and I would hope, Sen. Sanders, that you would join the Democrats trying to close the Charleston loophole, that you would sponsor or co-sponsor legislation to remove the absolute immunity” for gun makers and gun sellers.

(Closing the "Charleston loophole" would allow someone to buy a gun only after a background check is completed -- an effort to tighten regulations following the mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.)

But not to worry, Martin, you’re better than the Republicans, Clinton made clear.

“Only the three of us will do this -- nobody on the Republican side will admit that there’s a problem,” Clinton concluded.

O’Malley Picks On Sanders For Being Old

As Sanders was explaining why he thinks it’s more important to focus on eliminating the Islamic State as opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, O’Malley asked if he could “offer a different generation’s perspective on this” issue.

Clinton is 68 and Sanders is 74.

The crowd wasn’t enthused with 52-year-old O'Malley.

“Boooooooooo,” they said in unison.

O’Malley Touts His Controversial Mayoralty Of Baltimore

You know how Baltimore is a gleaming beacon of racial harmony and economic recovery?

If you are having trouble, it may be because if Baltimore ever was such a city, it has not been in decades.

That was clear for all the world to see when the city broke out into civil unrest over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, in police custody in April.

But that did not stop O’Malley from pointing to his record as mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007 as a source of experience for dealing with racial strife.

“There is no issue in American public policy that I have worked on more day in and day out than this issue of policing, of law enforcement, criminal justice and race in America,” O’Malley said. “When I ran in 1999, David, for mayor of Baltimore, our city by that year had become the most addicted, violent and abandoned in America. But we came together, brought people together over some very deep racial divides, and we were able to put our city on a path for the biggest reduction in crime of any major city in America over the next 10 years.”

In reality, O’Malley’s record as mayor is the subject of deep disagreement among local black communities.

O'Malley implemented an aggressive policing regime that did reduce homicide and crime rates -- but at a high cost. Numerous reports circulated of black and Latino men being locked up without charges being brought. Baltimore police arrested 100,000 people in 2005, at a time when the city had 640,000 residents.

Some leaders believe that the controversial approach was, on balance, worth it.

Rev. Franklin Madison Reid, a Baltimore minister, praised O’Malley for improving the safety of low-income black families and told The Washington Post that drawbacks notwithstanding, Baltimore "was in a lot stronger position as a city after he became mayor.”

David Simon -- a former Baltimore Sun crime reporter and the creator of HBO’s “The Wire,” which portrays Baltimore’s complex crime and poverty epidemics -- has argued that O’Malley’s mayoralty was characterized by attempts to reduce the official crime numbers at all costs, including fudging statistics and encouraging police to make arrests for nonviolent drug charges on flimsy grounds.

"The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was Martin O'Malley. He destroyed police work in some real respects,” Simon told The Marshall Project in April. “Whatever was left of it when he took over the police department, if there were two bricks together that were the suggestion of an edifice that you could have called meaningful police work, he found a way to pull them apart.”

This article has been updated and revised with additional information regarding O'Malley's law enforcement policies -- including statements from a local community leader in support of those policies -- to reflect the complexity of the debate around his record on race relations and crime in Baltimore.

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